Business executives have cautioned that world governments must do more to avoid environmental degradation ahead of a conference in China aimed at drafting a draft UN biodiversity accord.
The CEOs of Unilever, H&M, and nine other corporations sent an open letter to governments urging them to take real action on mass extinctions of species and ecosystem collapse or face “a dead world.”
The warning comes as China prepares to take over the chair of a major UN environmental gathering for the first time, hosting the opening phase of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Cop15 summit in Kunming this week, with the majority of delegates participating electronically.
Governments will hash out this decade’s objectives for averting biodiversity loss in person during the second phase of discussions next year, which have been repeatedly postponed due to the epidemic.
According to the letter, the current draft of a Paris-style UN agreement for nature, which includes targets to eliminate plastic pollution, reduce pesticide use by two-thirds, and halve the rate of invasive species introduction by 2030, does not go far enough to stop the destruction of the natural world. Separately, over 1,000 firms with a combined turnover of $4.7 trillion (£3.5 trillion) have endorsed a group’s appeal for governments to implement measures to reverse nature loss by 2030.
The Paris Climate Agreement, signed in 2015, is a legally binding international treaty aimed at addressing the climate crisis by pledging to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the scientifically advised safe limit, with a goal of not exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“Nature is at a crossroads, and time is running out.” The letter to world leaders, which was obtained exclusively with the Guardian, stated, “We must recognize natural loss for the disaster that it is.” “We must recognize that, while nature is essential in combating climate change, it is much more than a climate solution.
“The Cop15 biodiversity conference is our last and best chance to halt biodiversity loss.” It stated that the draft Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework “lacks the ambition and clarity required to drive the urgent action required.”
The CEOs wrote that existing plans were vague and encouraged world leaders to commit to an equivalent of the 1.5C climate objective for nature around which companies and civil society can unite. They also encouraged governments to remove and refocus any ecologically damaging subsidies, as well as to consider the economic worth of nature when making decisions.
According to a Swiss Re research released last year, more than half of the world’s yearly GDP – $42 trillion (£32 trillion) – is dependent on high-functioning biodiversity, while a fifth of the world’s countries face ecological collapse.
“With the same rigour we measure our profit and loss, we need to track our influence on the environment and nature,” said Roberto Marques, CEO of Natura & Co, which owns the Body Shop and Aesop and signed the letter. “We demand that all detrimental subsidies be eliminated or redirected by governments.” Governments continue to subsidize companies and activities that are extremely detrimental to the environment.”
According to Marques, China’s chairmanship is significant because decisions made by the world’s greatest greenhouse gas emitter will determine whether the world meets its environmental goals this century.
“There’s a double rhythm with Cop15 followed immediately by Cop26,” said Eva Zabey, director of Business for Nature. We know that nature will be a prominent component of Glasgow, so here is our chance to push that policy goal even higher.
“What occurred with the Paris Agreement is that having political ambition gives businesses the confidence to invest, innovate, and change their business models. Companies can ensure that they are doing their fair part by using the Earth’s boundaries as a framework.”
Xi Jinping, China’s president, is set to address at Cop15’s mostly ceremonial first phase this week. Due to pandemic border limitations, the second conference, which was planned to take place in person in Kunming from April 25 to May 8, 2022, may be rescheduled.
The UN’s biodiversity chief, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, and other CBD employees had to spend three weeks in quarantine to attend the summit in China.
Despite the epidemic, David Cooper, the CBD’s deputy executive secretary, claimed that negotiations were progressing well. “We expect political leaders to direct their negotiators to reach an agreement while maintaining the required ambition on biodiversity objectives and methods to accomplish them,” he added.